by Joanne Bussiere
Throughout Brennan Srisirikul’s childhood all he dreamed of was to feel connection. He usually felt disconnected because his disability caused people to immediately see him as being different. Brennan was born with cerebral palsy, disconnecting the signal between his brain and legs. He has always experienced the world from the vantage point of a wheelchair. As Brennan matured, he felt less disabled and recognized that his position from his own little chair could allow him to become an extraordinary person by overcoming an exceptional challenge.
This led Brennan to consider creating a one-man show, and the idea took hold. His inspiration will come to fruition on February 21 when he performs at the Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston. This marks a return to the locale of his first professional performance in The Titanic with Poppy Champlain. Accompanied by mentor and pianist Lila Kane, Brennan will present a cabaret act entitled In My Own Little Corner.
When asked what this show is all about, Brennan smiled and said the clue could be found in the lyrics of this song from Cinderella: “I know of a spot in my house, where no one can stand in my way. In my own little corner in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be.”These words became an inspiration for this work. He interweaves spoken words with his favorite theatre and pop songs,writing and singing of his journey. The show explains how the hindrance of cerebral palsy actually makes him strong.
Brennan has never liked labels. The word disabled made him ask himself if he was “dissing” his abilities. Perhaps he was capable of more than he thought. Was he selling himself short? A musical theatre friend, Ali Stroker, first presented him with the phrase differently abled. This helped to frame his perception of self.
It took Brennan a while to come out because he did not want yet another label. When he came out at 18, being a perceived underdog in two communities gave him motivation. Says Brennan,“I am more than my wheelchair. I am more than my sexuality. They are parts of the greater whole of me.”
Throughout his life, people trying to be helpful by offering him advice ended up pointing out his limitations. He chose instead to look beyond these barriers. Being different isn’t bad; it’s a great thing. Once his school musical director asked him what he feared. He said he was worried about people talking about him. She gave him the boost he needed by responding, “Then give them something to talk about!” This set him on course to fulfill his life’s mission: to keep the conversation going and make those connections. He asks, “What could we do if we thought we could do anything?”
Rhode Island College acting teacher Nehassaiu Degannes told and life can be whatever you want it to be.” She said that all he needed to do was change the lens through which he viewed his ability. This concept struck a chord and transformed his attitude, and because his attitude changed, so did those around him. Degannes asked him, “Don’t you wish everyone could have the experience of your classmates? [They see that] you are enough just the way you are.”
Brennan is certainly well on his way to fulfilling his dream of connection— in fact, he is already there. He is being booked to give inspirational speeches, frequently travels to New York City for auditions, and is planning for a career in Los Angeles.